Everyone talks about going to the Outer Banks for the beach. It’s a week-long stretch (or maybe more!) to kick back in the sand, bask in the sun and play in the ocean. Now, we love our beach, don’t get us wrong, but after a few days, it feels like your crew has built all the sandcastles, found all the seashells and ridden all the waves. A change of scenery that still has some of the Outer Banks’ most popular aspects awaits just a short 3-mile drive over the Wright Memorial Bridge. In Powells Point, H2OBX takes our favorite elements of the Outer Banks and reimagines them in an alternate sort of splashable fun.
This state-of-the-art waterpark has likely caught your attention from the road when driving through the Currituck mainland. The slides and structures tower high overhead, visible from nearly a mile away, and their vibrant colors pop through the veil of trees screening the park from the highway. Upon entering, though, it’s evident that this mainland park pulsates with the Outer Banks’ spirit.
“We know that people think the beach is what they’re coming to the Outer Banks for, but then they get sunburnt, the flags go up, the sand is too hot,” says Wendy Murray, the marketing director at H2OBX. She hopes people will begin to think of the waterpark as an off-island destination to embrace the reasons they come to the Outer Banks. They can learn about the history, culture and attractions through the rides, facilities and dining options. Also, the park offers a destination for swimming and watersports without fear of riptides or cold currents. “Even on the Flow Rider, they can still work on their surfing and boogie boarding technique,” Murray says.
The slides, the dining options, the facilities all pay homage to the islands’ history, culture and attractions. The Wild Horse Run, for example, almost mimics the experience of riding one of the wild banker ponies with the twisting and turning slide that ends by tossing the rider into a wading pool. There’s also the Plank, a plunging slide that drops the rider feet first into the water below, as though a pirate pushed them over the plank.
Tastes of the Outer Banks color the food scene as well. Flyboys Bar gives a nod to the Wright brothers while pouring wine and beers on tap, including numerous options from local breweries. Authentic North Carolina-style pulled pork barbecue and other smoked meats await at Heavenly Hawgs BBQ. Additionally, Outer Banks Eats and Dune Devil Desserts specialize in classic, carnival-style fare where diners of diverse or conservative palates can satisfy sweet and salty cravings.
“People say they initially come to the waterpark for the rides, but the thing that surprises them is how good the food is,” Murray says. “Even when you walk around the park, it’s like being at a fair with food carts going around for ice cream, lemonade and hot dogs.”
Similar to activities and diversions on the beach, H2OBX caters to all activity levels and ages with more than 30 rides and attractions. Young ones can start getting their toes wet or practice blowing bubbles in the kiddie pool and family wave pool (with gentler swells than the Cat-5 Bay Wave Pool). Or for adventurous youngsters ready to dabble in a bit more adrenaline, a selection of the park’s slides are designed specifically for riders shorter than 48-inches, and parents can go along.
Seasoned thrill-seekers, on the other hand, can hang on to their tube as it careens around the bends and dips of a slide. The wave pool also ranges from mild to wild, making it a safe but thrilling alternative to swimming and bodysurfing on days when the ocean gets too rough.
Even family members with no interest in getting wet can spend an enjoyable afternoon relaxing at H2OBX. Kick back in your family’s or group’s own private cabana. There, you can soak up the sunshine with beverage in hand or, if you opt for the Deluxe Cabana, even catch the game on TV. The park’s 50 spacious, shaded spots offer cushy bases for groups of up to 12 people to comfortably gather, take a snack break or a snooze on the lounge chairs or sofa. Cabana servers will even bring over food and beverages from the Outer Banks Eats restaurant.
H2OBX offers different tiers of park passes. A single-day pass makes a great option for a stand-alone trip to the park, but the more cost-effective option is the vacation pass, which provides access to the park for an eight-day period. For longer-term visitors or locals, a season pass allows unlimited trips to the park until mid-September, when it closes. (Local tip: Plan to go to the park on weekdays instead of weekends, when the drive from Kitty Hawk takes only about 10 minutes. You’ll save yourself from sitting in change-over traffic on the weekends!)
Speaking of park passes, special deals are available for bigger groups (anywhere from 15 to 100+ people) at H2OBX. Youth groups, school groups, corporate groups (hey, because adults deserve some playtime too) and others can book trips to the park by making reservations with at least two-days advance notice. Additionally, group members earn other perks at the park, including meal vouchers and discounts at the retail shop, Wright Stuff Retail. The park’s Currituck location makes it accessible not only to groups on the Outer Banks, but also as an easy daytrip for groups from the Hampton Roads area (anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour away).
The next time you want a taste of surf and sunshine, without struggling to park at a beach access or braving rough seawaters, find a refreshing and thrilling piece of the Outer Banks awaiting all ages at H2OBX.
(252) 491-3000 • 8526 Caratoke Highway, Powells Point